Australian Cricketers Association calls for bans of Smith, Warner and Bancroft be uplifted

In light of the recently released Ethics Centre Review into Australian cricket, the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) has once again called for the bans of the three players involved in the ball-tampering scandal earlier this year to be uplifted. Captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner were each suspended for 12 months, while young opener Cameron Bancroft received a nine month ban, for their respective roles in attempting to alter the condition of the ball using sandpaper in a test match in South Africa earlier this year. The ban came at the discretion of Cricket Australia rather than the ICC, after cricket’s governing body determined it wasn’t in a position to hand down any significant punishments as a result of the indiscretion.

An independent review - the Ethics Centre Review into Australian cricket - which was recently released, however, suggested that Cricket Australia themselves were at significant fault for their behaviours in the lead up to the incident. According to that report, which spoke to many players at the top level, many professionals felt that ‘they count for little - perhaps for nothing’ outside of ‘wickets taken, matches won, world rankings’. As a result, ‘players have internalised the belief that winning is the only thing that matters’, and many stated that they would not oppose poor behaviour from an important player, instead prioritising the need to win over the need to call out bad behaviour. 

Indeed, the review found that this focus on winning was not confined purely to the players themselves, but also extended to coaching and support staff. The result is that calls have invariably come once again arguing that the penalties handed down to the players was too harsh, given they were operating under a cultural problem which pervaded Cricket Australia in its entirety. 

According to ACA president Greg Dyer, despite the fact that the behaviour itself was individual, ‘there is now evidence and independent verification of system failure as well’, and that ‘Cricket Australia must also take a share of responsibility for what happened in South Africa’. 

ACA are now expected to make a submission to CA in the coming days, though what exactly this yields is hard to determine. It’s extremely difficult to imagine CA making any sort of concessions to ACA, particularly given this won’t be the first time the Cricketers’ Association has called for a shortening of the ban. CA have very little to gain by uplifting the bans a little over half way through them - aside, of course, from winning cricket games, which as this whole scenario has demonstrated should probably be secondary to logic on occasions - and doing so would simply paint them even further into a corner.

As for the opinion of the author, if anyone would care to indulge me: the ACA, as an association for the cricketers, will of course always stand up for their rights. On this occasion, however, they don’t have a leg to stand on. That an independent review highlighted there were cultural problems throughout Australian cricket does nothing to reduce the actions of Warner, Smith and Bancroft. Everybody understands they were under significant pressure to win, and regardless of whether this pressure was being forced upon them by a higher body, they are independently thinking adults who actively chose to do something ridiculous. 

That isn’t to say nobody should feel sympathy for them - I certainly do, and have since the beginning. But sympathy is not a reason to reduce their punishments. The facts are, they opted to cheat - and they weren’t held at knife point. Maybe this finding shows they were under a little - perhaps even a significant amount - more pressure then some people had previously imagined, but it in no way justifies the action, nor should it have any impact on the penalty.

The Australian Cricketers’ Association will make their recommendations to Cricket Australia, and though CA haven’t been painted in a particularly good light over the past few months and in particular days, they will no doubt dismiss them and uphold the bans of the players. Smith, Warner, and probably Bancroft will all make their comebacks eventually to an Australian side which desperately needs them, but it won’t be until they have served the entirety of their punishments.

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